Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anthony McGill and the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble

On Friday, I went to a concert featuring Anthony McGill and the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. For those of you who don’t know, Anthony McGill is the principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City. He’s won all sorts of awards, and he is a well known virtuoso in the world of classical musicians. He’s most famous for playing at Obama’s inauguration with Yoyo Ma and Itzak Perlman. He is also my favorite clarinetist. This was a great concert, and I really enjoyed myself.

When he played the Concertino by Carl Maria von Weber, Anthony McGill really showed us what virtuoso he is with an amazing performance. I loved his phrasing and emotional expression. His slow parts had a very sweet and dark tone and his fast parts were very in control. He shaped his phrases so beautifully. His movement matched his musical expression, and he was very fun to watch. After the piece was over, I wanted him to play it again – maybe ten or twenty times.

The Latin American piece Four for Four by Jorge Montilla, started the concert. The bass clarinet solo really stood out. Mr. Tuttle had enormous control, especially the high register. He had a very full and big sound, but sweet. The first movement sounded like the bass clarinet was making a very important speech and the Bb and Eb clarinets were whispering, chattering, and laughing behind his back while he made his very important speech. All four musicians worked together very well.

The second piece they played was called Paquito by Andy Scott. I love this piece! I like how the high and low parts play off of each other, like they’re bouncing. It was like many things happening at the same time in a crowded room. The piece is very busy, but in a good way. The parts split off and go in different directions and come back together again. This was my favorite piece (outside of the McGill performance).

Throughout the entire concert, Rose Sperrazza was very funny between performances. I liked the way she talked to the audience like they were a group of her very good friends. She showed great leadership for the other musicians.

The last performance before the intermission was the world premier of Tres Canciones by Leo Schwartz who was there conducting. The first pieces of the concert were very physical and grounded in reality. This piece was very eerie and otherworldly. It was like you were floating around in a dreamworld. The third movement was like you woke up and you saw things how they really were again and that the world wasn’t just a dream. I thought the counter-tenor was odd. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a counter-tenor before, but Lon Ellenberger's performance was very good and it helped create the floating feel of the piece.

The Merit School clarinetists played Simple Gifts arranged by Ricky Lombardo. This arrangement of this famous American folk song played by students of Merit School made me think of the Aaron Copland Appalachian Springs movement that features this theme in many variations, and the John Williams piece from the inauguration. It was a great choice because it is a great tribute to Anthony McGill who was a student of Merit when he was young.

The concert ended with First Suite in Eb by Gustav Holst. It was nice to hear a Holst piece that WASN’T the Planets. I really liked how the clarinets could cover all of the parts of an orchestral piece that was written for many different instruments. It was neat how the clarinets sounded like clarinets, but at the same time, they gave the impression of strings and brass, and filled up the auditorium with their sound. Wow!

I wish I could travel in time so I could watch the concert again.

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